tv Religion Ethics Newsweekly WHUT September 12, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
trying to combat extremism within their community. >> we're not terrorist suspects. we're america's brightest prospects. also, a prominent scholar speaks about religious tolerance and growing anti-muslim sentiments. and an abbott for whom photography is a lot more than a hobby. mayor funding for religion & ethics "newsweek"ly is provided by -- welcome.
it's good to have you with us. as the country observes the ninth anniversary of the september 11th terrorist attacks, there's been an extraordinary national conversation about the challenges of religious diversity and the boundaries of tolerance. there were protests and condemnations from around the world over a small independent florida church's threatened plan to burn the koran. secretary of state hillary clinton called the plan disrespectful and disgraceful. and general david petraeus, the top u.s. and nato commander in afghanistan and defense secretary robert gates said the act could endanger american troops. the debate came on top of another controversy over plans to build an islamic cultural center near the site of ground zero in new york. at a news conference on friday, president obama called for religious tolerance.
>> we have to make sure that we don't start turning on each other, and i will do everything that i can as long as i'm president of the united states to remind the american people that we are one nation under god and we may call that god different names. but we remain one nation. >> this week, dozens of christian, jewish and muslim leaders held what they called an emergency summit in washington, d.c. to address the tensions. the group released a statement denouncing anti-muslim bigotry and urging respect for america's tradition of religious liberty. >> we are convinced that spiritual leaders representing the various faiths in the united states have a moral obligation to stand together and to denounce categorically misinformation or outright bigotry directed against any religious group in this country. >> this is not america.
this is not our country. >> islamic society of north america president also had a message for muslims. >> don't use these incidents as hateful as they are, as hurtful as they are, to justify any kind of hatred against america or christians, american christians or jews. >> imam rauf, organizer of the proposed new york islamic center, said his mission is to build bridges between religious groups. in a column in "the new york times," he said interfaith support for the center is helping to undermine anti-american radicals. a new report from the former heads of the 9/11 commission says u.s. authorities have not done enough to address the threat of homegrown terrorism. it urged new systems be put in
place to counter radicalization. kim lawton reports that several leading u.s. muslim groups are already trying to confront these concerns with new efforts to pro-vent extremism from taking hold in their communities. >> reporter: it's late afternoon in manassas, virginia, not far outside washington, dc, and at the dar al noor mosque they're getting ready for a good all-american barbeque. the picnic is part of a new national initiative from the muslim american society called "the straight path campaign." it's one of several new projects being launched by u.s. islamic groups in an effort to fight extremism within their community, particularly among young people. >> we want them to say to america and prove to america through their efforts that, you know, we're not terrorist suspects. we are america's brightest prospects. >> reporter: according to a new poll by the pew research center, americans hold conflicted views
about whether islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions. 42% of those surveyed said that islam does not encourage violence more than others, 35% said it does, and almost a quarter said they didn't know. the survey also found that almost 40% of americans said they had an unfavorable view toward islam. that's a significant increase from just five years ago. since the terrorist attacks on september 11, 2001, many american muslims say it's become increasingly difficult to counter the perception that their faith is linked to violence. and that job has been complicated by some recent high-profile terrorism-related arrests of muslim americans, including several who were born or raised in the u.s. >> the fact that there has been a string of incidents presents a reality that we cannot afford to ignore, regardless of whether it's emanating from our own homes, or our own mosques, or our own communities. >> reporter: a duke university study released earlier this year found only a relatively
small number of us muslims who had planned or carried out terrorist attacks. the study concluded "homegrown terrorism is a serious, but limited, problem." >> one is one too many, and so we have zero tolerance for that kind of seductive narrative and that seductive type of presentation that lures young people into things that will ultimately ruin their lives. >> reporter: one of the first priorities for mainstream u.s. muslim groups has been trying to fight extremist messages online, including many from foreign-based, english-speaking americans. >> i am calling on every honest and vigilant muslim, unsheathe your sharpened sword and rush to take your rightful place among defiant champions of islam. >> what happens in extremist groups is that there's a cult mentality. there's blind following of a
charismatic leader, these pied pipers that are speaking to us now on youtube from caves and jungles and war zones that are trying to glamorize violence. that's basically what we're dealing with. >> reporter: hoping to offer a different view, american imam suhaib webb has set up his own website where he challenges radical statements and answers questions about islamic teachings. >> you know the prophet -- peace be upon him -- said "if the day of judgment starts and you have a seed in your hand, plant that seed." stay positive. never allow yourself to succumb to that negative discourse. >> reporter: he's been urging other muslims to tackle the issue of extremism head on, as well. >> if you're not going to take the position, someone else will take that position for you. if you're not going to step up to the mic, someone else is going to grab it and spit. that's just the reality. >> reporter: webb says a major problem is that many of the radical websites twist and misrepresent islamic teachings, either intentionally
or through ignorance. he was one of nine u.s. scholars and imams who denounced extremism in a recent video produced by the muslim public affairs council. >> communities really need to focus on religious literacy so that our young people start at an early age knowing what the koran actually says and what the koran actually promotes us to do which is to be a part of society, to be contributing and to be good to our families and to be model citizens within whatever countries we live in. >> reporter: with the straight path campaign, the muslim american society is also trying to educate muslim young people about the tenets of their faith. the imam draws from his own experience in the u.s. civil rights movement and talks about the importance of non-violence within islam as well. >> the sanctity of life is valued, and it's the sanctity of all life. >> reporter: the campaign is holding a series of meetings with youth and youth leaders across the country to discuss violence and islam. and also how to address injustice and discrimination in
positive ways. he says it's important not to dismiss the very real concerns and frustrations among young muslims. >> providing young people with skill sets and tools that embrace non-violence, but at the same time, doesn't give them the feeling that they're just rolling over and that they're not really fighting back against some of the injustices that they see every day in their lives, both here and abroad. >> we don't separate islam from politics. this is an act of wore sthip for us. >> reporter: they're trying to help young muslims address their concerns through the political process. they hold a young leaders summit in washington where participants learn how government works. >> it's easy for somebody to exploit people's agers and frustrations. and lead them to destructive behavior. so our approach is promoting the theology of life within islam. that islam is meant to be part
of a pluralistic society. >> reporter: the students see the mechanics of politics up close and meet with politicians, this year, including representative keith ellison and indiana representative andre carson, the only two muslims in congress. organizers say the experience gives young muslims a vision of what can be accomplished. >> they sometimes have a hard time believing their own elected officials want to hear from them or even care about their opinions because what they see on their campuses and, you know, in their hometowns is a rising level of islamic phobia. >> reporter: the various projects are intended to be proactive against radicalism, but they've also provoked controversy. several outsiders have accused the campaigns and their leaders of not being tough enough against extremism while some muslims fear it can give the feeling the problem is bigger than it is.
>> some people said before you get going on that, make sure it doesn't portray us all as being so-called radicalized, that's a danger as well. >> reporter: some have accused bray of perpetuating this. >> they say there's no problem, everything is just fine. well, everything is not just fine. >> reporter: american muslim leaders say their young people, like young people of all faiths, are trying to figure out their identities. and the leaders say, religion should be a culturally relevant part of the mix. >> islam is a religion that has a book that is supposed to be universal and supposed to apply at different times. therefore, it's our responsibility to interpret the principles from the koran and the traditions of the prophet to america in the 21st century. and by and large that has not been done. >> reporter: it's a matter that hits all too close to home for students like these. >> saying that all muslims are
terrorists, that's a big issue. it makes people feel left out, especially in school. they're like, wow, am i really like that? >> the word terrorist and muslim are not synonymous. >> reporter: and that's the ultimate message they hope takes hold. i'm kim lawton reporting. we get some perspective now on all this from scott appleby, professor of history at the university of notre dame, and an expert on interfaith relations. welcome. actions in american history have not been actually unusual. is what's going on now different? >> i think it is different in two respects. first of all, stories like this are immediate. they're broadcast right away. and we quickly hear not only the story itself, but the echo of the story.
the second quality is the pervasiveness. it's everywhere. that is to say, a story that has this kind of charge to it, by that i mean anti-islamic feeling of whatever type, can be broadcast in a way and the media covers everything in such a way that someone who doesn't have a great standing or any expertise or knowledge, but who wants to stir the pot, wants to get some attention, wherever they may be from, can attract attention by pushing the envelope, doing something outrageous and the cycle begins again. another story, immediate echo and we're in the middle of a controversy. >> and the consequences, when something like danish cartoons or a burning, when that goes out, the consequences can, as all the officials of the united states government have warned, can be very dangerous. >> and the point is, we all know that. anyone who is paying attention
realizes we're in such a charged atmosphere with this instantaneous communication that can be very controversial, that i have power now, the power to insight, first of all, attention for myself or my cause, and the feelings of others because everything has been raised to a level of a lot of heat, not much light. ths you see them, of the anti-muslim feeling that's going on now? >> we have to realize that one thing that's similar to other periods in our nation's history, of nativism, of attacks against people perceived as foreign, whether they're from another nation or religion, what's in common is, we're in an economic crisis. these episodes flair up when americans are feeling displaced or threatened, that their economic well-being and their citizenship is somehow called into question by a threatening minority. islam in america is a tiny, tiny
minority. why pick on islam? because for nine years, almost a decade, the popular mentality is, we're in some kind of war with islam, which is a distorted reading that's not sufficiently shouted down by the right people. we're not in a war with islam. we're in a conflict with a tiny minority of radicals who are denounced by the majority of muslim leaders and muslims around the word. >> do you think that there is some justification, however, for thinking that there is something about islam itself that condones or perhaps even encourages violence? >> no, there's nothing about islam itself that makes islam stand apart from other religions. all the major world religions have text and traditions that can be twisted, that can be interpreted to condone violence, including christianity.
islam is not better or worse in that regard. that is, in what the sources of islam say about violence. there are verses in the koran and in the traditions of the prophet that can be read in either direction. islam itself is in a different context today in the united states than christianity or hinduism in india. so there are a lot of factors that make parts of the islamic world and parts of the reaction in this country more vehement, more charged and it doesn't have a lot to do with the religion itself. >> you have called the biggest lie what? the imagining that all islam is -- >> the assumption that islam is inherently -- that in its very nature, islam is violent, evil, that it's a religion that
produces murderers, liars, thieves, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, i'm a catholic, the same thing was said about catholics. there's some parts of catholic history, by the way, that could be interpreted as being anti-democratic and anti-american. the popes denounced religious freedom in the 19th century. so there are parts of tradition that can be lifted up, twisted and used as a weapon against people you don't like because you're fearing them for a variety of reasons. that's what's happened to islam today. >> scott appleby of the university of notre dame, many thanks. >> thanks, bob. in other news, the humanitarian disaster in pakistan continues after last month's devastating flooding. this week, riots broke out among those facing a shortage of food. although flood waters have begun
to recede, the united nations says 3 million people are still in need of food and 6 million remain homeless. conditions on the ground make it difficult for aid groups to reach many of the victims. humanitarian concerns also remain in haiti. eight moments after the deadly earthquake. new york arch bishop timothy dolan, chair of catholic relief services, led a fact-finding trip there. he said while there are some signs of progress, rebuilding efforts are still frustratingly slow. we have a story about a benedictine abbott. he's a gifted photographer, who finds spiritual insight in the beauty he sees. judy valente reports.
>> reporter: founded in 1857. >> glory to the father and to the son and to the holy spirit. >> reporter: the abby is located in atchison, kansas. 52 monks live here. they lead lives of prayer and contemplation. the abbott is barnabas senecal. >> taking photographs reminds me of the positive. manastic mindfulness is pursuing what benedict taught about being aware daily of your presence of god with you and in the world. it's mindfulness of creation and of sharing that with others. >> reporter: about 40 of his photographs are now on exhibit at the abby. his photos include his fellow
monks. >> those that didn't know his name call him father time. just a gracious man who also swam every day until he was 100 years old. a man of prayer. a man who came to our communal prayer each when he was 100 years old. we give thanks for a man of such character. >> reporter: father james downey. >> late in his life, liked to read, sit out on the porch and smoke his pipe. what we save is the memory of the man, a face that is very content with life and just a wonderful smile. you know, we take a vow of stability and it means that this community is where we live out our life, even where we are buried. father bruce swift. he loves going down to lansing, to the state penitentiary twice a week, hears confession, offers
mass for the prisoners. it's a ministry to him and he'll do it until he can't move. >> reporter: at the vatican. >> we sit in silence, admiring beauty. this is beauty from centuries ago. we ought to let it influence our heart. let it be a moment of reflection and yet not be intimidated by it. >> they let you go on this upper balcony above the altar. i shot three the grate into the south, gaining a sense of depth by the size of the people. this is an amazing place where amazing grace is found by many. >> reporter: the pews at a
church in brazil. >> i liked the image of light, and inviting light and inviting people into the church for prayer. there's lots of images of light in the scriptures. christ, the light of the world. the light that enlightens us in our hearts and minds. >> reporter: you take a lot of photographs of children. >> they're natural. they don't have to pose. people feel that if you got everything lined up, it will be good. st. thomas talks a lot about order as reflecting god's presence. this is a fun moment, and yet we can interpret it as a way of seeing life. i am nourished by taking pictures. yes, it's a spiritual exercise in that i don't just take a picture and store it. i will reflect on it. entering into these moments of photograph is a conviction that
i'm seeing something that i didn't make, the other people didn't make. it's there, it's there because it's part of god's creation. >> reporter: a grass hopper on a leaf. he wrote this reflection on the photograph. >> a quick camera shot up close, holds that beauty before me. i don't own such beauty, no one does. it is the creator's forever and mine for now. and i share it with you. >> reporter: for religion & ethics "newsweek"ly, judy valente in atchison, kansas. finally, a busy time on our calendar. this weekend, muslims are marking the end of ramadan with the celebration of eid'al fitr, or the "feast of fast breaking." the holiday is usually celebrated with special prayers and visits to friends, although some american muslims say they are toning down their eid celebrations this year because of the proximity to september
11th. also this weekend is ganesh chaturthi, the hindu festival dedicated to the popular elephant-headed god lord ganesha. hindus mark the day by offering prayers and delicacies to the deity. it's also the holiest time of year for jains as they celebrate the festival of paryushan, a time to restore friendships and ask for forgiveness. and, this coming week, jews will observe yom kippur, or the day of atonement, the most solemn day of the jewish calendar. observant jews will spend next saturday in synagogue fasting, praying and repenting. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernathy. there's much more on our website. you can comment on all the